Hawaii EMA fires missile alert sender; confusion over test wasn’t new

Enlarge / A view of the skyline of the Waikiki neighborhood of Honolulu on December 31, 2014. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images (credit: Getty Images)

The employee who sent out the false "incoming ballistic missile" alert to the state of Hawaii in mid-January has been fired, and Vern Miyagi, the administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), has resigned.

The incident, which left Hawaii residents in a panic for 38 minutes thinking a ballistic missile was bound for their state, was initially blamed on bad software—HI-EMA said that an employee had accidentally selected the wrong choice in a menu of confusing choices. The governor's office circulated two different mockups that illustrated the design that employees had to navigate to effectively work the system.

But then on Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission released a preliminary report saying that the employee actually thought the internal announcement of an "exercise" was the real thing because the employee claimed not to have heard the "exercise" portion of the recording, which was followed by another recorded message stating "this is not a drill." The FCC admitted it couldn't vet the credibility of the employee's claim, because the employee refused to be interviewed by the FCC.

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